by Anne Lang Bundy
In God's eyes, what is marriage? What is divorce?
~ Jodi, Michigan
The short answer I'd offer is that marriage is God making two people one flesh and divorce is humans ripping flesh apart:
[Jesus] said to them, "... 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh' ... they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."
Matthew 19:4-6 (NKJV)
Marriage is the lifelong covenant relationship between a man and woman, instituted by God for our temporal time on earth, officially established by formal vows made before witnesses. Among the purposes of marriage are:
• Supportive human companionship (Genesis 2:18)
• Procreation of godly offspring (Genesis 1:28)
• To clarify God's relationship with His people (Ephesians 5:22-33)
Marriage is the most significant human relationship, but it is only a model of a bigger, spiritual relationship between God and His people. We are to love the Lord and be united to Him physically (yielding our bodies to His Holy Spirit), in mind (conforming our way of thinking to His), in heart (loving who and what He loves), and in soul (our identity is attached to Jesus Christ).
"The goal in marriage is not to think alike,
but to think together."
~ Robert Anderson
"One flesh" signifies that two people are joined not just physically, but also by thinking together from different perspectives, by sharing desires and aspirations, and uniting their identities as part of each other.
Through His relationship with us, God also indicates how we respond to an imperfect spouse. God loves us despite our neglect, shortcomings, misplaced priorities, and indifference. He asks us to do the same.
The Old Testament permitted a man to divorce his wife for sexual "uncleanness" (or "shamefulness"), though the Jews came to divorce for other kinds of disfavor. Jesus made clear that while Moses permitted divorce because of hardened hearts, only sexuality immorality provided legitimate grounds for divorce. Paul went on to explain that a Christian shouldn't divorce an unbelieving spouse, but was released from the marriage only if the unbelieving spouse abandons the Christian.
God calls divorce "violence." Its effect upon our souls is no less than if we ripped an arm off a person, separating flesh from flesh. An arm would only be amputated when it contains disease which has already separated it from life in the body.
It might be said that when all other means of recovery have failed to restore the member diseased with sexual immorality or abandonment, divorce cuts off what is already dead. To use divorce for lesser reason is to commit unnecessary violence to ourselves and to the model of God's enduring covenant.
A final note: The sanctity of the marriage covenant never demands self-sacrifice which allows oppressive abuse. Jesus says, "... learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' "
© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy
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